EXCLUSIVE: ANYBODY THAT WANTS TO EXIT NIGERIA CAN GO: BUHARI SHOULD STOP ENFORCING UNITY ON IPOB~Adamu Ciroma Former CBN Governor-The Sun
Saturday 27 August, 2016
As an administrator and politician, Ciroma’s experience traverses almost all the sectors in Nigeria. A former Governor of the Central Bank and minister of several ministries at different times and a northern apologist in this interview with JACOB EDI declared pointedly that “no one is afraid of restructuring.” He stated this while responding to growing agitation for the restructuring of the country.
In an exclusive interview with theDaily SunTalks about restructuring has reverberated since the inception of the Buhari administration especially with the emmergence of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), all calling for restructuring of the Nigerian state. While admitting that people have the right to self-determination, Ciroma declared, “anybody that wants to go can go but should be ready to face the consequence.” He spoke further on this and much more.
You are one of the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party. Since its defeat in the last general election, the party has become a ghost of itself and in crisis. Are you happy with the state of your party?
Well, everybody is aware that the PDP has been in trouble since it lost the elections in 2015 and they have internal squabbles and the leadership is being claimed by different people. They had some kind of convention in Port Harcourt which eventually, everybody agreed didn’t succeed and recently again, they organised another convention in Port Harcourt which also didn’t sail through. How it is going to end nobody can tell. But at least they are trying to solve their problems.
Some people believe that the former governor of Borno State, Alhaji Ali Modu Sherrif, who is also haggling for the chairmanship of the party was brought to destroy the PDP alleging he is an agent of the ruling APC and he was invited to make sure the PDP is not organised before 2019. Do you agree?
I don’t know, I have not spoken to him and he has not spoken to me and I cannot tell whether he came to destroy PDP or they brought him to destroy PDP, I don’t know.
But the way things are going in PDP, do you see them taking over power in 2019?
There are certain things which only soothsayers can tell; none of us is a soothsayer, we cannot tell what will happen in 2019. Human beings act in the light of their experiences and things may change between now and then. And so it is not fair to ask anybody to predict what is going to happen in PDP or the politics of Nigeria at that time. Only people who are participating that try to solve their problem, those who want to become leaders and those who push others; so it is something that you cannot tell. But all we know is that they are trying to solve their problems.
Aren’t you playing any role in the resolution of the crisis currently bedevilling your party?
PDP was set up by people like me and others and we believe that we set up the philosophy and other processes that will guide the party to succeed and it succeeded. So what happens next will determine whether they kept to this philosophy or not. And in any case, every party, no matter how good it is, after so many years it must have some problems and that is what PDP has and they are trying to solve the problems.
In retrospect, why do you think PDP lost power?
I can tell you that PDP lost power because they departed from the principles which were laid down. PDP was a party set up to ensure that every part of this country is involved, everyone is involved, that no part of the country is left out, that the military cannot just come back and take power and that was how it succeeded in 1999.
You were against former President Jonathan coming back to power, you wanted a northerner to take power; fortunately or unfortunately, there is a northerner in power but not within your party, are you happy now?
The point I was trying to make was that PDP did a number of things which made people lose confidence; there are people like me who felt that the party radically departed from its principles and therefore, lost the confidence of many of its supporters. Any party in power will always do things which some people will say are good while some are not good and eventually they will lose if the bad things overcome the good things.
The APC has its leader elected the President of this country because of the troubles that are in PDP, it appears that it doesn’t even exist for the time being; we will only know what real APC is when PDP resolves its problems.
Away from party difference and sentiments arising therefrom, would you say the current President is doing well especially with the hue and cry by Nigerians right now?
The truth is that leadership involves dealing with problems and the problems are numerous. So far, President Buhari is one person that I believe everybody trust, I believe that people know that he is not going to take public money and put it in his pocket, he is not that kind of person. People know that he is surrounded by people who he has appointed to certain positions; they have not individually performed to deal with the problems which affect this country.
Take power for example, he gave one ministry to deal with power, housing and works. The person he appointed as minister, I think people have respect for him but the power situation has not improved. So no matter, if you have confidence in him, if the problem given to him is not solved you would begin to wonder
The President who gave him that position is affected by the failure of the minister to produce result, so that leaves Buhari with the problem of corruption. This country is a difficult thing to deal with, there are many people who are against corruption verbally but in practice if you put them in position where they can get bribe, you will still see them taking bribe.
So, the problem of bribery and corruption, they depend on individuals who are able to hold that position and resist and you cannot tell who can do that unless you put him in that position. So, Buhari has a problem and he needs to bring more people to deal with these problems that are affecting the country.
The economy is a problem. People want him to have a team that will deal with the problems. But even myself I find it difficult to understand the role of the Minster of Economic affairs that is Sen. Udo Udoma, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, I don’t quite understand what role they are playing dealing with this problem. The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has certain problems and a lot of people are complaining.
So, in certain areas, success has not been guaranteed but he has got the time to deal with problems he has tried to solve but has not succeeded. The one thing that I told you is that everybody is confident about what Buhari will not do. Buhari is not going to be corrupt. He is not going to take public money, he is not going to allow people who take public money to hold big positions but he needs time to deal with these things.
But there are people in his government who may not pass integrity test, what do you make of that?
Well, he needs time to deal with the consequences of what they do now. Some of you judge them by the past, some of you have to judge them from now and we hope that they will act the way the President is thinking so that the ordinary people can benefit from the government.
Could it be that President Buhari has mortgaged his conscience and he cannot quite deal with some of these people?
Don’t ask me that question because I cannot answer. I don’t know.
You should be a happy man now with a President from the region of your choice, even though he is a member of another party?
I have said repeatedly before the elections that I as a party man who was involved in politics, who was there to deal with the problems that affect this country, I really didn’t care a hoot where the President came from. What I wanted to see is a competent person being the president and competently dealing with the problems of this country. To be honest with you, I believe that President Jonathan was not competent, I believe that President Buhari is very honest but he has not been able yet to deal with the economic problems of this country.
So leadership is a big problem and we have to give time. In fact, before you elect somebody president, you should always have been able to test him over a period how he has lived his life, how he has conducted himself and so on. So far, President Buhari, you can still say he is a honest person but he has not been able to deal with the economic problems of Nigeria.
With regards to the Presidents’ ability to have got it right thus far, what advice will you give to him?
I am 82 years old and in 1961, 62, 63 I worked for the Saudarna directly and what I learnt from the Saudarna was that a leader if he has problems he calls and puts together a number of competent people, honest people who can give him advice on how to solve the problems. A leader does not sit and wait for people to come and give him advice; a good person knows that he does not know the problem of the leader, it is the leader who tells them what his problems are and then ask them to help him support or solve the problems.
So far, I won’t go to Buhari to tell him how to solve the problems. I know the problems of the country but I don’t know what his problems are. So my advice to him is to put together what problems he has and ask competent people to advice him.
What are the problems of this country?
Now I am an old man and I have been involved in the civil service, I have been involved in the newspaper industry, I have been involved in the textile industry, I have been the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, I have been Minister of Finance, I have been Minister of Agriculture, I have been Minister of Industry. So my knowledge covers wide areas and I know a large number of problems for now.
For now, we have got the financial monetary problem the governor of the Central Bank has to deal with. I know we have the problems of refineries and how to deal with the supply of petroleum and other things. And so there are many of them and even if he picks one or two to seek advice on, he would probably get solutions that would affect others as well.
From what you are saying, it may appear that the President is not consulting?
I feel he needs more consultation.
If President Buhari calls you today as an elder statesman who has seen it all to advice him, will you oblige him?
Of course I have to. My duty is to Nigeria not to Buhari.
Let’s talk about the unity of this country. Do you, in all honesty think Nigeria is still one?
Nigeria has done well, we are one country, we quarrel sometimes, we have insurgencies and other security problems but when the British came we were different bits of countries. When the British left, they left us as one country and we are still one country. So, we are doing well in my view. We are learning how to live with one another and I know that Nigerians like to keep their country as one, no matter what complaints people have, they still want Nigeria together but every country has her problems.
Europe has problems, England is still having problems with Europe, and Europeans are still having problems with immigrants from Eastern Europe, from the Middle East, from Africa. America is having the problem of black people, which everybody thought they have solved but black and white problem is arising. If you go to Latin America, they are still having criticism of corruption and how they mismanaged oil money and things like that. If you go to other countries they are still fighting in the bush. So, don’t think that it is Nigeria alone that has problems, Nigeria has survived up till now and to me, Nigeria so far has succeeded; so what is your complaint?
With the vibes coming from Niger Delta Avengers and other pockets of insurgency around the country, do you still think Nigeria can remain as one country?
Why not? The Avengers know what problems they have, they are articulating the problems and sometimes they do it violently. Boko haram also did theirs violently, now they are talking about Fulani-farmers dealing with the problem violently; but we have always had these problems and we have survived and I believe when you have problems, then you should direct your mind at the problem and find solutions.
Should government negotiate with some of these groups? I mean the Boko Haram, the Avengers and any such group, because some people believe that government should not negotiate with them. Do you think that it is appropriate for government to negotiate with them?
Government belongs to everybody, it is for the benefit of everybody and every problem has a way of dealing with itself. Sometimes, it is wise to negotiate, sometimes it is weakness to negotiate. You always have to pick which way is going to solve your problem.
In the circumstance that we are in today, which option is best?
I am not the government but if I am the government I would know what to do.
If you are to advise, what would you advise should be done because human lives are being lost, people are being killed everyday?
You are only a journalist asking me, if Buhari asks me I will tell him but you, what is the use of talking to you. There is no point talking to you. If you have an idea, you go and talk to Buhari.
Some people have called for what they call restructuring, to negotiate rules of engagement of the Nigerian state but each time the issue comes up, the North seems not to be comfortable with that concept, do you know their understanding of this concept? Is the north scared of restructuring?
Me, I don’t care about restructuring, I don’t fear restructuring. What I know as an educated man is that human beings, no matter where they are, as long as they are more than one person, there will be problems of how to live together and Nigerians have been learning how to live together since the British brought them together as one unit.
The problem varies from time-to-time and if you want to survive, you must know how to solve your problems; there is nothing fixed, there is nothing permanent, and the problems keep changing. So, Nigerians, to me, have done well.
Some months ago, some people were saying ‘kai Buhari, leave us with our corruption’ because they thought the alterative they have under corruption was better than under Buhari but it is not true. Every age has got its problems and you have to learn how to solve problems; if you don’t learn how to solve problems, you will die.
It does appear that you are not in support of any form of separation between the entities that became Nigeria; but the Britons that fused the nation together just got tired of the European Union and pulled out. So if any part of Nigeria wants to pull out, why shouldn’t they?
Any part of Nigeria that feels tired of Nigeria; that believes that Nigeria is not going to solve its problems and the alternative is to break away, break away is only one option. If you try to break away, somebody else is going to try to prevent you and the result may be bloody or it may succeed. So you haven’t got ready-made problems or ready-made solutions; anybody who wants to break, let him break.
Didn’t it happen before, wasn’t there a civil war? What happened?
The Federal Government, not British government, the Federal Government of Nigeria went to war with some parts of the country attempting to break away and some part of the country attempting to stop the break away and in the end, Gen. Gowon said no victor, no vanquished.
Next time, the people who want to break away may succeed, it may be good for them or it may be good for all of us but so far, we cannot foretell the consequences of any part breaking away, that is the problem. When you don’t know the consequences of what is coming, you try to find solutions, sometimes in a violent way and sometimes through negotiation.
What I understand from what you have said is that anybody who wants to break away can do so but they should be prepared for the consequences?
Yes, we all have got to be prepared for the consequences.
Ordinarily, shouldn’t people have right to self-determination?
Everyone has right to self determination, it means I have a problem and I want to solve the problem… I am the one to solve it, if I want to follow that path to solve the problem, who are you to tell me not to take that way? But if I decide to take that way, how can I predict how you are going to act? That is why I tell you that you are always trying to solve problems and because you fear the consequences of what will happen. Has every country in the world got oil? Not every country has oil. Some have more problems than those who hasº, so what is it?
What is it that has kept you in the PDP unlike some of your contemporaries who tore their membership cards?
You know everything you do is based on your experience and knowledge. My political experience arose from NPN, we formed NPN and it was the biggest party in Nigeria and President Shagari became the president and we enlarged our views and we said we want a party that will win elections in Nigeria; the military came and drove us away after we won the election. We were in Kirikiri prison, UPN people, NPN and other party people, we were in Kirikiri and we realised that the military who brought us here also wanted power like we had, and now we are in prison, what is your problem with me and you?
We realised that politicians if they wanted the country to be run on electoral, democratic basis they had to come together and act together and that was actually the beginning of PDP. So, when we came out, we started consulting and decided the progressive and non-progressive to act together and that was how PDP was formed.
And what are the philosophies of the PDP? We agreed that the party we are going to form should treat every citizen fairly, justly and that our duty was to bring about improvement in the condition of the ordinary Nigerian and that you can only do when you have confidence of people in every part of the country, so that the Army cannot come back and drive politicians away from power and take control.
Be fair and just, improve the economic condition of the ordinary people, ensure that every part of the country is involved, that the party should have the confidence of people everywhere. When the elections took place in 1999, for the first time in Nigeria, one party won elections in a majority of the country; this is the basis for PDP.
So what happened? At what point did the party leadership miss it?
The PDP wanted to be fair to every part of the country and mostly, it is we the people from the North who are ahead in the formation of PDP and we put Obasanjo as the presidential candidate and he won. He was to do four years as President, he tried to prolong it and he got us to a meeting, all of us and agreed that a President can do two terms so we approved two terms for him. And towards the end of the two terms, he tried to extend and we refused. We said we agreed on North/South rotation. The president came from the South and the next one from the North.
So, Obasanjo finished and he wanted to continue but we said no. We stood by the principle of the party and he looked around and chose Yar’adua to succeed him.
Wasn’t that okay since you wanted a President from the North?
Yar’adua was the governor of Katsina State then but everybody knew he was not well but we refused to oppose.